Rennes: Historic Town Centre Meets Young Cultural Life

France, Ille et Vilaine (35) Rennes, transats place de la mairie devant le theatre opera

Rennes and Brittany are similar to Paris and France. In the capital of the northeastern region, the visitor does not necessarily find what the country stands for beyond the city limits.

In contrast to attractions such as Saint-Malo, Cap Sizun or Concarneau, you won’t find a picturesque harbour, secluded beaches or wildly romantic coasts in Rennes.

Instead of an active holiday in an authentic landscape, Rennes offers the charms of a big city with historical sights, museums or original gastronomy, without being stressful.

Discover now:

Places Of Interest

Rennes is a young, lively city, dominated by the students of the university. Accordingly, the atmosphere is ideal for a detour during a Brittany holiday or a short break.

The best way to get to know the capital of Brittany is to take a walk through the centre. All the sights in just over an hour – come along!

Place Sainte-Anne

Start at the Place Hoche car park in the centre. Bus lines 36, 51, 70, 71 and 151 stop at Place Hoche. If you arrive by metro line, get off at Place Saint-Anne and walk back for about 10 minutes. Alternatively, the route through Rennes can also start here.

Leading off from the north-east corner of Place Hoche is the Passage des Carmélites, the name recalling the former Carmelite monastery in this alley. At the end of the Passage des Carmélites, the path leads through an archway onto a crossroads. The 2nd street on the left is Rue d’Antrain, follow this to the first junction. Turn right there into Place Sainte-Anne. The visitor notices that the centre is close, many shops, cafés and restaurants line the roadside.

Place Sainte-Anne is one of the liveliest places in Rennes at any time of day, for the “Rennais” as well as for visitors to the capital of Brittany. Apart from the Basilique Notre-Dame-de-Bonne-Nouvelle de Rennes church on the north side of the square, the colourful half-timbered houses are particularly eye-catching.

Rue Saint-Michel: The Wild Heart Of Rennes

Place Saint-Anne offers two options. If you are more hungry, turn left into Rue de Penhoet after the entrance to the metro station on the right and sit down in one of the many restaurants. The other option is the parallel street Saint-Michel.

It is immediately clear why the street is also called “Rue de la Soif” – Street of Thirst. The bars are lined up here and, especially in the evenings and at night, a colourful mixture of students from the University of Rennes, locals and visitors who like to drink rules.

Both streets do not fit the typical image of a tourist pedestrian zone. The half-timbered houses seem to be standing on wobbly legs and many a gap is evidence of how medieval the building fabric of many houses is. Shutters and doors of the pubs are covered with graffiti.

The unruly nature of the two streets may not be to everyone’s taste, but for many visitors this is precisely what makes this part of Rennes’ historic city centre so charming.

Place des Lices

Whichever option you choose, both streets lead to the Place des Lices. Fancy a detour? Where the two nightlife streets meet, Rue de Leperdit leads south to Place du Champ-Jacquet. The square is a popular photo motif because of the colourful, high and sloping half-timbered houses (to be seen in the first picture of this article).

Back to the Place des Lices. The square takes its name from the battles of the knights in the Middle Ages. Bertrand du Guesclin, a nobleman who can be found in many places in Ille-et-Vilaine and Côtes-d’Armor, is said to have fought his first tournament here. Later, the Place des Lices at the gates of Rennes was used as a venue for executions.

A staircase leads from the upper part of the square to the lower part and thus to the Rennes market hall. Fresh fish and seafood, fruit and vegetables or local specialities such as Guérande salt, galette or cider, much of it in organic quality, are offered by the traders in the market hall. A stroll through the rows of delicacies is almost a must, especially on days of the weekly market when stalls are also set up around the hall.

If you managed to tear yourself away from the Halles Martenot, cross Rue de Juillet after the 2nd building and turn into the cobbled Rue de Portes Mordelaise. Pass under the archway of the Porte Mordelaise, another historical monument, and continue until the Cathédrale Saint-Pierre comes into view. Houses of worship have stood on the site of this mighty church since the 6th century; the cathedral as the viewer sees it today was completed in 1845.

Passing the Cathédrale Saint-Pierre, your steps lead you to Rue des Dames, where you will find the crêperie “Le 2 rue des Dames”, one of the best-rated restaurants for regional cuisine. You will find the restaurant opposite the tourist information office. Later, the street becomes Rue Saint-Yves, then Rue Beaumanoir.

Opéra de Rennes And Parliament Of Brittany

The next stop on the Tour de Rennes is Place de la Mairie. On the west side rises Rennes Town Hall, on the east the Opéra de Rennes. In concert with the other adjacent buildings on Rue Ferdinand Buisson and Rue de’l Hermine, one of the most impressive architectural ensembles in all of Brittany unfolds.

The square is more than an open-air museum. During Advent, for example, a Christmas market sets up its stalls and stands here, and in summer, deckchairs invite you to relax under palm trees.

Cross Rue de Brilhac at the north-east corner of Place de la Mairie. You won’t miss the Parliament of Brittany, with its wide steps to the entrance and gilded statues on the roof, another architecturally outstanding attraction. In 1994, the building made headlines after a fire raged inside following protests by Breton fishermen. In 1999, the palace reopened freshly restored, and you can see the impressive elements such as murals, ornate stucco and sculptures for yourself on guided tours.

After a detour to the Parlement de Bretagne, leave the square in front of the building in a south-easterly direction into Rue Saint-Georges. Up to Rue Gambetta, Rue Saint-Georges is a pedestrian zone with many restaurants, crêperies and bars.

Parc du Thabor

Turn left into Rue Gambetta and after a few minutes, at the historic (and still operating) swimming pool Piscine Saint-Georges, turn right into Rue Victor Hugo. Follow the road until you see the Parc du Thabor on your left. The park in the historic centre is a popular oasis for Rennes residents and visitors.

With its waterfalls, flowerbeds that shine in all seasons, ancient trees and orangery, the Parc du Thabor is considered one of the most beautiful parks in France. Especially for families with children, the Parc du Thabor is a welcome change because of its playground and merry-go-rounds.

Explore the park on your own, a good landmark for continuing the walk is the Saint-Melaine church. Past the church, turn left into Rue Saint-Melaine and from there, past the shopping mall “La Visitation”, back to the starting point on Place Hoche.

Best Museums

Le Musée des Beaux-Arts

The exhibitions of the “Museum of Fine Arts” show a wide range of works from antique objects to modern art. The permanent exhibition focuses on French painters of the 19th century. In addition, there are temporary exhibitions that regularly feature art from Brittany or with a Brittany connection. Le Musée des Beaux-Arts is located in the heart of the city, in the immediate vicinity of the cathedral and the Place de la Mairie at Quai Emile Zola 20. A big plus: reasonable admission prices of 6 EUR, reduced 4 EUR.

Le Champs Libres

In imitation of the famous Centre Georges-Pompidou in Paris, Rennes has had its own cultural centre since 2006. A museum on the history of Brittany is housed within the walls of the Champs Libre, as are an interactive science exhibition and a library. The exhibition on Brittany in particular is one of the most comprehensive and informative of its kind in the entire Northwest. Interested visitors will find the Champs Libre near the main railway station.

Le Ecomusée du Pays de Rennes

The Ecomusée du Pays de Rennes is a must when on holiday with children. Instead of high art, you can experience Brittany with all your senses at the gates of Rennes. In the mix of exhibition rooms and open-air museum, for example, pieces from everyday life in Brittany are shown and in the stables of the farm, animal species once represented in agriculture. Best reached by car or metro from Triangle station followed by a walk to Route de Châtillon-sur-Seiche.

Frac Bretagne & La Criée

If the classics of art are not exciting enough for you, you are more likely to find what you are looking for in the contemporary exhibition spaces of the institutions “Le Frac – Fonds Régional d’Art contemporain” or the “La Criée – Centre de Art contemporain” (Place Honoré Commeurec). Both art spaces offer sculptures, paintings and installations by young artists in changing exhibitions. Admission to the Frac Bretagne (Avenue André Mussat 17) is free for young people under 26.


The capital is nicknamed the “gateway to Brittany” because of its position near the eastern border with the rest of France. This continental location gives Rennes comparatively friendly and stable weather conditions compared to much of the maritime northwest.

During the summer, the capital of Brittany records on average less rainfall, more hours of sunshine and a higher average temperature than places on the coast of Brittany, especially the sections in the north of Finistère and Côtes-d’Armor. The warm season is therefore also the best time to travel to Rennes.

In winter, temperatures rarely drop below freezing. With an average of 7.8° C, the weather in the capital is considerably milder than in the German metropolis.

Eating & Drinking In Rennes

As befits the capital of a gourmet region, Rennes is home to many fine restaurants. The culinary spectrum covers everything from experimental home cooking to upscale cuisine or Italian and Asian cuisine. The choice is limited to mid-price establishments – restaurants with traditional French cuisine and crêperies.

Chez Kub

Behind Rennes Cathedral, at 20 rue du Chapitre, you will find Chez Kub. An unpretentious, cosy restaurant where grilled specialities in all variations are the hallmark. Suitable for families, couples and groups alike.

L’instant Crêperie

A highly recommended crêperie on the Rue Saint-Georges restaurant street in the historic city centre. Classics of crêpe and galette cuisine interpreted traditionally or creatively. Moderate prices and young clientele.


L’Embarcadère” is an excellent address for fans of fish and seafood. Breton specialities such as scallops and couteaux are among the highlights on the menu. The quality has its price, “L’Embarcadère” is located in the Rue Dr Francis Joly outside the historic city centre.

Le Comptoir Brasserie

French cuisine is served in the brasserie Le Comptoir south of the main station. The menu includes dishes such as foie gras, beef, choucroute de la mer or tartare de boeuf. Plus point: terrace with a view of the greenery.

Images: Comité Régional du Tourisme de Bretagne | © Yanick Le Gal, © Emmanuel Berthier, © Donatienne Guillaudeau, © Yannick Derennes, © Ronan Gladu, © Jacqueline Piriou, © Simon Bourcier, © Pierre Torset, © Alexandre Lamoureux, © Nicolas Job, © Xavier Dubois, © Thibault Poriel, © L’œil de Paco,  © Bruno Torrubia